Lockdown 4.0 has been announced and the states are figuring out their own set of guidelines, but one thing which has continued unabated for the last one month is the misery of migrant labour. Deprived of food, shelter, money and protection from their employers and hours and hours of walking only to battle one hardship after another. Today, at the Ghazipur border, the Uttar Pradesh Police stopped hundreds of migrant workers from entering the state after an accident involving several deaths of migrant workers took place on Saturday.
The state is arranging for buses to transport the stranded workers and food and water is being provided to them by volunteers. We met a family of 13 waiting under the Ghazipur flyover, there were small children and women in the group who were waiting since 4 am to cross the UP border.
On asking, we came to know that they had walked from Noida’s Hussaipura and are going to Bijnor district. “The landlords asked us to leave the place as we could not pay rent. We were short of food as well, so we decided to go home but the police stopped us here,” said Rakesh, a plumber working in Delhi for the last 10 years. His wife was seen trying to console the crying kids and on asking about their problems, she replied, “The children haven’t eaten in hours and they are crying to go back home. We are waiting here for so long and the government told they will arrange for buses but not even a single bus plied since morning.
What should we do now?” Ranjan, another worker, said, “The government asked us to fill a form for special trains. We were happy that something will help us to ferry back home. But now we realise there is no guarantee when our turn will come. We don’t know if we will survive till then without money or food.” Another group of 35 people going to the same village was seen waiting under the flyover. They had hired a truck for Rs 56,000 to their village.
“We are waiting here since 2.30 am. I’m here with my brother but the police instead of helping us told us to go back to our homes. We do not have a place here to live, no money to pay rent,” said Ashok, one of the group members. “The vehicle did not arrive. They took money from us but now we cannot even go back,” said a young girl, who works in a sewing shop in Noida. The truck driver who was to take them was also spotted nearby.
He said, “The truck engine failed near Ghazipur. The police are asking me to drop them back to where they came from, you will get facilities there. They are not letting us cross the border. I’m also waiting with them since then.” Similar circumstances had held up everyone in the entire Ghazipur flyover area. At least 50 such families waited helplessly for the government to help them reach their homes.
Kids asleep in the scorching heat, women and the old recklessly wandering about the roads, migrants with torn clothes and tired faces with only one question in their eyes: When will this misery end? When will a rapid action plan be executed to lessen their woes? The government indeed has been coming up with several reforms but none seemed to have worked completely, as yet.
On Friday, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla wrote to chief secretaries of all states and UTs. The letter directed officials to stop movements of migrant workers on roads and railway tracks, instead he asked them to arrange for special buses or Shramik special trains to help them reach their homes. “States/UTs should widely disseminate the arrangements for travel in special buses/Shramik special trains amongst the migrant workers and persuade/counsel them that they should not be walking when they can travel in buses/trains,” he stated in the letter.